Comparison of the human and worm p53 structures suggests a way for enhancing stability

Yongping Pan, Buyong Ma, Arnold J. Levine, Ruth Nussinov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Maintaining the native conformation is essential for the proper function of tumor suppressor protein p53. However, p53 is a low-stability protein that can easily lose its function upon structural perturbations such as those resulting from missense mutations, leading to the development of cancer. Therefore, it is important to develop strategies to design stable p53 which still maintains its normal function. Here, we compare the stabilities of the human and worm p53 core domains using molecular dynamics simulations. We find that the worm p53 is significantly more stable than the human form. Detailed analysis of the structural fluctuations shows that the stability difference lies in the peripheral structural motifs that contrast in their structural features and flexibility. The most dramatic difference in stability originates from loop L1, from the turn between helix H1 and β-strand S5, and from the turn that connects β-strands S7 and S8. Structural analysis shows significant differences for these motifs between the two proteins. Loop L1 lacks secondary structure, and the turns between helix H1 and strand S5 and between strands S7 and S8 are much longer in the human form p53. On the basis of these differences, we designed a mutant by shortening the turn between strands S7 and S8 to enhance the stability. Surprisingly, this mutant was very stable when probed by molecular dynamics simulations. In addition, the stabilization was not localized in the turn region. Loop L1 was also significantly stabilized. Our results show that stabilizing peripheral structural motifs can greatly enhance the stability of the p53 core domain and therefore is likely to be a viable alternative in the development of stable p53. In addition, loop- or turn-related mutants with different stabilities may also be used to probe the relationship between function, a particular structural motif, and its flexibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3925-3933
Number of pages9
Issue number12
StatePublished - 28 Mar 2006


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